Thor: Ragnarok, More Than Brute Force
In the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Thor is often overlooked. His first two stand-alone films were mediocrely received, and he is usually pushed to the side when on screen with his fellow Avengers. But if you think the god of thunder has it bad, Hulk has it worse. The not-so-gentle giant only has one stand-alone movie, and it barely connects to the rest of the MCU. Usually, the only place Hulk and Thor can take center stage is the battlefield. Thor: Ragnarok provides the perfect opportunity to show that these characters are more than brute strength, and director Taika Waititi takes full advantage of it.
The film opens with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) trapped in hell, explaining aloud how he came to be captured. At first, it seems very reminiscent of Deadpool, with the fourth wall breaking, but it turns out he’s just having a Hamlet moment talking to a skull. We then meet Surtur, who looks exactly like what you’d imagine the overlord of hell to look like. After a few quips, Thor makes short work of him, saving the world and ending the movie…not. Turns out the real big bad is Thor’s long-lost sister, Hela (Cate Blanchet), the goddess of death. As if one evil sibling wasn’t enough.
The opening scene of Thor 3 perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the film. While there was no explicit fourth wall breaking, the movie is very self-aware — which shows in the humor. When Thor first returns to Asgard, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) puts on a play in his own honor while disguised as Odin (Anthony Hopkins), and let’s just say it has an A-list cast.
However, I was bothered that the writers turned Loki ruling Asgard into a joke. If there was one thing Thor 2 succeeded in, it was the ending — with the reveal that Loki had secretly taken Odin’s place. In Thor 3, we find out he has accomplished nothing in all this time, and he surrenders within minutes of Thor’s arrival. Regardless, this leads to a cool cameo by Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) who has apparently become even more powerful since we last saw him. It’s a shame he didn’t stick around, though I think even the goddess of death is below the Sorcerer Supreme’s pay grade.
In addition to Earth and Asgard, much of Thor 3 takes place on Sakaar, a planet run by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) who hosts gladiator matches to entertain the populace. Marvel encompasses a wide range of genres, and Thor 3 is the best example. The scifi, dystopian feel of Sakaar contrasts with the fantasy-inspired Asgard. There’s demons, aliens, robots, gods, and just about everything in between, and it all blends together perfectly.
It is on Sakaar that Thor encounters Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), who has been fighting as the Grandmaster’s champion. I was rather confused as to how Hulk wound up there from the end of Age of Ultron, but I digress since this is the first time we see Hulk as an actual character. In previous movies, he is portrayed as Banner’s mindless alter ego, but here we see that he has a mind of his own. His banter with Thor is easily one of the best parts of the film. While I still think the Planet Hulk storyline from the comics deserved a full movie, this was a serviceable adaptation that fit very well within the context of the plot.
With all the different settings and plots, it would be easy for audiences to get lost, but the performances provide a strong anchor. Hemsworth and Hiddleston have played Thor and Loki in at least three other movies, so playing these parts must practically second nature for them. Mark Ruffalo is also a veteran as Bruce Banner. The new additions are Jeff Goldblum, who never fails to entertain, Tessa Thompson, who plays Valkyrie like a total badass, and Cate Blanchet, who is fantastic as the first female antagonist in the MCU.
Overall, Thor 3 provides everything you could want and more from a superhero flick, and gives more complexity to characters we’ve known for years.
Final Score: 8/10